Flmsg as a Multipurpose Forms Generation
and Communications Tool

Some Background

Flmsg is a forms management editor that includes various standard formats such as ICS, radiogram and others. Flmsg was developed in 2010 as an adjunct to fldigi. Files produced by flmsg may be transmitted or received via the fldigi modem in a seamless manner. Flmsg also contains a variety of controls for radio transmission including mode selection, compression options, etc. The form template is not transmitted. Only the form content is sent. The printable form is populated at the receiving end. This results in a substantial reduction in the amount of data that has to be sent over the airwaves. Form data can be transferred between computers by a number of methods e.g. using standard internet email or via radio frequency broadcasts typically made by an amateur radio operator.

When flmsg was first introduced it only contained two forms, the ICS-213 and the radiogram. At present there are in excess of 2 dozen built in forms. It also has a file transfer feature and the ability to create, edit and view spreadsheets. Requests for new forms to be added to flmsg created a problem for the authors. A number of these requests were for specific agencies or groups and were regional or local in nature. The solution was to add a custom forms feature. Custom forms are user generated html forms that can be added to the user's flmsg file system. As a result, anyone who can create an html form can equip his or her agency or group with specialized forms. These forms can also be put under standard agency document control systems, something that's not possible with the built in forms.

Flmsg as a Stand-Alone Tool

A number of groups have found that flmsg serves well as a general purpose forms creation and edtiting tool apart from its use with fldigi/NBEMS. For example, a form created with flmsg may be sent via any communications method that can transfer files. This includes email, wired and wireless networks, etc. as well as with other radio methods such as Winlink. (Winlink has developed its own forms system but that system only works with the Winlink Express software. This is very limiting.

A case in point is the Gold Country Red Cross which is based in Sacramento. They were looking for a platform for their various disaster forms that could be used for office and field use in addition to transmission by radio. Initially, the Winlink system was evaluated and then rejected based on the issues discussed above. Flmsg met all of the functional criteria but was rejected as the interface was too unwieldy for the person who is only concerned with populating forms and sending & receiving them.

Dave Freese, W1HKJ, the author of flmsg was approached in the latter part of 2016 about a "simple" version of flmsg for agency use. After a few test iterations, Dave produced a very workable version of flmsg that can have either the standard or an agency interface. These are shown in the figure below.

The Agency interface is selected if you only want to create new messages based on existing custom forms; edit or reply to an existing custom form based message; or view a received message based on either a custom or a built-in form. Form editing and viewing is done in the default web browser that is installed on the same computer as flmsg. The browser may be Internet Explorer, Chromium, Foxfire, Safari, or some other graphics enabled browser.

The Radio Operator ("Communicator") interface is the one used by NBEMS operators, those desiring to use the built in forms or those who wish to create or edit spreadsheets in .csv format.

How these interfaces are used is depicted in the figure below.

Flmsg is also a useful tool for the traffic handler. Please refer to the Traffic Handling page for more information.

For comments or questions, please contact KB1TCE at kb1tce(atsign)maine-ares(dot)org